Nicola Sturgeon threatens future of elite sport in Scotland after Rangers fans breach lockdown rules for title win

Rangers disagree with Nicola Sturgeon's claims they have lacked leadership on this matter and, in a letter to the First Minister from club chairman Douglas Park on Monday, accused her of a "dereliction of duty" for failing to engage with them on plans for the title celebrations

Nicola Sturgeon has instructed Scottish professional sport to remain vigilant towards elite sport's coronavirus regulations
Image: Nicola Sturgeon has instructed Scottish professional sport to remain vigilant towards elite sport's coronavirus regulations

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has threatened the continuation of elite sport after thousands of Rangers supporters broke lockdown rules over the weekend to celebrate their first league title win in nine years.

Sturgeon expressed her "anger and despair" towards the Rangers fans for "flagrantly breaching rules that the rest of us are following every day at great personal cost", while speaking at Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

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Rangers disagree with Sturgeon's claims they have lacked leadership on this matter and, in a letter to the First Minister from club chairman Douglas Park on Monday, accused her of a "dereliction of duty" for failing to engage with them on plans for the title celebrations.

Scotland's First Minister insists Rangers "could have done more to avoid this situation" and promised the weekend's events would not go unpunished.

"The fact is that elite sport is being allowed to continue just now, so that fans, deprived like all of us of so much else in life, can continue to watch and support their teams," said Sturgeon.

"It would be deeply unfair if a minority spoilt that for the majority. I very much hope that will not be the case.

"But given the fragility of the situation we face right now, we simply cannot turn a blind eye to what happened at the weekend, and we won't."

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Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney says the behaviour of some Rangers fans who broke lockdown rules was a 'disgrace' and there will be talks with the club. Rangers asked fans to go home and Steven Gerrard had told fans to follow rules.

Sturgeon said the government will hold talks with the football authorities as well as "certain football clubs" and report back before the Old Firm match on March 21.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he had been "dismayed" to see talk from supporters of both clubs, suggesting they would breach lockdown rules to come out for that fixture.

"Frankly, if football clubs and supporters cannot get their act together then we will have to consider future options are," he warned, as the government once again threatened the future of elite sport in Scotland.

Rangers on Monday wrote to Sturgeon to express concerns over her deputy's claim the club's "silence was deafening" while thousands of fans gathered at Ibrox on Saturday and in George Square on Sunday.

The club say they initiated contact with government and league officials on February 22, also asking police about how to "utilise" manager Steven Gerrard's ability to reach the fans, and he reminded fans about "safety and social distancing" ahead of the weekend.

Rangers also say they agreed a "form of words" over statements with police and the Scottish Government on Saturday afternoon, and claim the government would "follow up" - but the club say they did not hear any more on the matter until after fans started gathering.

Rangers believe Deputy First Minister John Swinney's comments on Monday that the "silence is deafening" are "inaccurate, unbalanced, and unfair", and they have also highlighted the club's public address announcements asking them to disperse from Ibrox at the time.

Police Scotland ask IAG to investigate mass gatherings of Rangers fans

Meanwhile, Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has asked the Independent Advisory Group to look into the mass gatherings of Rangers fans over the weekend.

He says scenes around Ibrox and in George Square in Glasgow should not have happened, and insists officers acted appropriately when faced with thousands of Rangers supporters celebrating the title win.

"I've been clear from the beginning of this pandemic that the strong relationship of trust policing has with our communities, underpinned by the principle of policing by consent, would be vital to the critical role officers and staff play in supporting the public health imperative," said Livingstone.

"That's why in April last year I commissioned John Scott QC to lead additional, independent and expert scrutiny of our policing response. I've been grateful for his Independent Advisory Group's valued insight and challenge since it was established, including on the issue of mass gatherings and protests.

"I have asked Mr Scott to consider the events of the weekend at the next scheduled IAG meeting on Friday, 12 March, having regard to the fundamental human rights principles of legality, necessity and proportionality, and to consider any relevant issues for the policing of future events over the coming months.

"A number of senior officers, including those involved in the policing operation at the weekend, were already scheduled to attend this meeting. As has been the case throughout the last year, policing will benefit from the significant value the IAG brings to our thinking and operational practice."

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